News and Tribune

David Camm

October 3, 2013

Forensic scientist says Camm investigators framed work around beliefs

LEBANON — A renowned forensic scientist testified Thursday that investigators’ own expectations and biases about blood evidence in the David Camm case likely affected their work and helped twice convict Camm of murder.

“I’m not saying the nonscientists in their case don’t believe what they’re testifying to,” Dr. Robert Charles Shaler said. “I’m seeing no evidence of fraud here. But scientific knowledge is critical to understanding bloodstain pattern analysis. You really should understand the principles behind it.

After Camm’s first two convictions for killing his wife and two kids in their Georgetown garage was overturned, Camm is on trial a third time for the killings in Boone County.

Shaler’s experience includes overseeing several sections of the New York City Medical Examiner’s office, including the division which identified victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He helped develop the forensic science program for Penn State University, writing the textbook for it. He also served as an author, and member of the peer review committee for a scathing report from the National Academy of Science decrying what it considered a lack of scientific research and procedures in crime scene investigations.

“The problem [in the Camm case] is that the number of blood stains is minimal,” he said, referring to several blood dots on Camm’s T-shirt that prosecutors maintain is gunshot spatter from the head wound of Camm’s 5-year-old daughter Jill. “Most looked at only three stains of the eight. And ambiguity allows people to opine as they feel.”

Had all investigators employed true scientific methods, they would have conducted experiments designed to disprove their initial theories, Shaler told jurors.

“The timeframe is a perfect example: How much of the blood had dried when he [Camm] said he found his family,” Shaler explained. “There has to be tacky [partially dried] blood in any area where he was. If I don’t see fresh blood on his shirt, then I’m on my way to disproving [that Camm is guilty].”

Scientific methods also require that the experiments attempt to match what investigators found at the scene, Shaler continued. That means using the same type T-shirt Camm wore the night of the murders, a 50-50 polyester cotton blend.

But such requirements could cast doubt on the findings of a key defense witness — blood-pattern analyst Barie Goetz. Goetz used all-cotton T-shirts and a doll’s synthetic hair soaked with blood to try to determine whether he could create stains similar to Camm’s in the way Camm claimed he had acquired them — his shirt touching beaded blood in his daughter’s hair as he was removing his son Bradley from the back seat of his wife’s sport utility vehicle.

Last week, Goetz told jurors he couldn’t replicate the precise stain pattern, but he incorporated other evidence concerning the site and size of the stains to conclude that Camm couldn’t have been the shooter.

On Wednesday, fellow analyst Bart Epstein testified that he used different methods in his own experiments, but that his results not only supported Goetz’s conclusions, they fully validated Camm’s account of the events.

Prosecutors will cross-examine Shaler this afternoon.

Earlier, jurors heard from Jeff and Martin Dickey, brothers who were part of the group playing pickup basketball with Camm at Georgetown Community Church on Sept. 28, 2000, the night of the murders.

Jeff Dickey told jurors he remembered little of his testimony from Camm’s earlier  trials. But he confirmed other players’ accounts that Camm sat out at least one game, and that he didn’t know whether Camm had left the gym or returned prior to the games ending at 9:30 p.m.

Prosecutors have alleged that Camm used his break in the action to sneak home, kill his family, and then returned to the games to establish an alibi.

Jeff Dickey told jurors he was certain he saw Camm on the sidelines for several  minutes.

“I make a note of things like that. I got hurt once by an errant ball,” he said.

Brother Martin Dickey was more certain of the time Camm arrived, and that he noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

“He [Camm] was happy go-lucky,” Dickey told jurors.  

He also confirmed defense allegations that prosecutors used misinformation during their initial interrogations.

“Didn’t they [prosecutors] tell you that you had told them you saw Camm wearing a gray sweatshirt,” defense counsel Stacey Uliana asked.

“I never said he wore a sweatshirt,” Dickey said.

DNA testing tied the sweatshirt to serial felon Charles Darnell Boney only after Camm’s first conviction was overturned. Boney was convicted of the Camm family murders, and has been serving a 225-year sentence since 2006.

Dickey also claimed that prosecutors tried to suggest that he knew Camm could cover the distance from the church gym to his house in about two or three minutes.

“They [prosecutors] said, ‘You know you can do it in five minutes,” Dickey said. “I told them, I guess if you were going fast, you could do it in 2 or 3.”

At the time, Martin Dickey worked at the same place as Camm, a waterproofing company owned by Camm’s uncle, Sam Lockhart.

“I’m trying to be as truthful as I can,” Dickey told jurors.

“You would not lie for David Camm, would you, “ Uliana asked.

“No reason to,” Dickey said.

— This article was produced as a partnership between the News and Tribune and WAVE 3 News.

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